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Long Beach Jazz Festival kicks off 30th year

“Thank you for supporting us time and time again” -- Kimberley Benoit

Compton Herald | Long Beach Jazz Festival
Spyro Gyra is featured on Sunday, August 13, 2017 at the 30th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival. Photo: Spyro Gyra

Spyro Gyra, Poncho Sanchez, Ramsey Lewis part of all-star lineup scheduled for Long Beach Jazz Festival, Sunday

LONG BEACH — The kick-off of the 30th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival couldn’t have occurred on a more perfect Friday evening with a gradual setting sun, and a light breeze. The weather was perfect, crowd enthusiastic, and the talent first rate.

A surprise appearance by legendary Randy Crawford kicked the festivities into high gear. The lineup for this year’s festival at the Rainbow Lagoon Park in Long Beach is one of the best ever!

Jazz Funk Soul featuring Jeff Lorber, Everette Harp, and Paul Jackson Jr., opened the festival Friday night with a high-energy performance, followed by the brilliance of Rachelle Ferrell. Marcus Miller killed it with an hour-long session that included Crawford, who wowed the crowd with her hit, Street Life.

“Thank you for the love,” Crawford said, as she received a roaring reception from the audience.

Saturday’s lineup includes Boney James, Will Downing, Nathan East, Eric Darius and 30 Years of Long Beach Jazz, featuring: Ndugu Chancler, Bobby Lyle, Craig T. Cooper, Alphonso Johnson, and Bridgette Bryant. Jazz in Pink is the opening act.

Sunday’s roster includes headliner Poncho Sanchez, Ramsey Lewis and Urban Knights, Najee, Bob James, Spyro Gyra, Al Williams Jazz Society featuring: Barbara Morrison and special guests.

Friday night Everett Harp played “Going Through Changes,” a song he wrote with his mentor, the late George Duke. He also paid homage to his friend, the late guitarist Chuck Loeb.

In tribute he played, You’ll Know When You Know, a song with Loeb and Lorber. He also wowed the crowd with Monday Speaks, his 2006 hit from the CD In The Moment.

Kimberley Benoit, president of Rainbow Promotions, LLC, became emotional on stage as she thanked the jazz enthusiasts who have supported the event for 30 years. “Thank you for supporting us time and time again,” she said wiping away the tears.

KTWV 94.7 personality Pat Prescott emceed the event and spoke about why she comes back year after year. “First, I love music,” she said. “I also Love Al [Williams] and Kim. They are great people and they always put on a great event. It always feels like a family reunion. It has become a tradition. This year they have a great lineup. I look forward to this every year. I wouldn’t miss it.”

Everett Harp has been performing at the Long Beach Jazz Festival since 1993.

“You can’t beat this crowd or the scenery,” said Harp. “Al and Kim know how to treat their artists.”

Asked about Chuck Loeb, who passed in July this year, Harp called him a true friend. “He was just an inspiration,” said Harp. “He inspired me to play harder and to keep the fire burning.”

Marcus Miller was the perfect ending to a fabulous night of music. He didn’t disappoint. He played Tutu, a song he said he wrote for Miles Davis, who, he said was an “intimidating” musician. He also paid tribute to his friend, the late Al Jarreau, by playing the hit, Since I Fell For You, a song Jarreau made famous. The song appeared on the Bob James/David Sanborn album Double Vision.

Darlene is a veteran publicist and an entertainment and travel journalist whose work has appeared in numerous print and digital entertainment publications. She is also a lecturer on the journalism faculty of California State University, Northridge.

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